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Preview: Macao International Music Festival 2016

Our neighbouring SAR is getting musical in October – and there's not a smoke machine nor strobe light in sight

The beauty of a city like Macau is that there’s so much more to it than what meets the eye. Take, for example, the music scene. Many Hongkongers would be forgiven for thinking that gigs are confined to nightclubs and arenas in glitzy resorts. But this isn’t the case at all, as there are a number of excellent regular musical shows across town. And one of the biggest of them all is about to get going, in the form of the Macao International Music Festival.

Not a strobe light nor a smoke machine is in sight at MIMF – it’s all about the sweet, sweet music. Starting with a pre-show on September 29 and 30 and then lasting throughout October, the festival showcases the best opera, showtunes, jazz and Chinese folk music across multiple venues around town. This year’s festival marks its 30th, the ‘pearl jubilee’, with a roster packed with the most diverse MIMF selection yet, including top musicians and ensembles from Europe, the US and the Greater China region. 

Founded in 1987, the festival plays an important role in displaying the cultural and artistic side of the city. Local talent is well supported, as this edition gives promising Macanese musicians like saxophonist Timothy Sun (pictured, bottom right) an opportunity to shine in the Bravo Macao! concert series, a pre-festival warm-up on September 29 and 30 in the historic Dom Pedro V Theatre.

The festival proper kicks off, however, between October 1 and 4 with what promises to be a visually absorbing recital of three-act opera Turandot at the Macau Cultural Centre. Dive into the romantic world of the Chinese princess Turandot and Prince Calaf of Tartary, set to Puccini’s glorious music. The festival has enlisted well-known Italian stage director Giancarlo del Monaco and acclaimed set and costume designer William Orlandi to present this grand opening act.

Classical lovers are in for a treat. The Berlin Philharmonic String quintet plays a range of numbers at the Dom Pedro V Theatre on October 3 before local pianist Kuok-Wai Lo and the Chinese Philharmonic Orchestra hit the Macau Cultural Centre on October 7. To commemorate the 400th anniversary of the death of the so-called ‘Chinese Shakespeare’, Tang Xianzu, who’s often compared to the English playwright due to the importance of his plays and poems in the Chinese literary canon, MIMF has gone to great lengths to specially produce Tang’s chamber opera A Dream of Fragrancy on October 14 and 15 at Dom Pedro. It’s an adaptation of Tang’s experiences of travelling to Macau in 1591 created by local theatre professionals. For history buffs, this is one not to miss.

A host of contemporary artists are also on the programme. Highlights include British percussion masters the Colin Currie Group (pictured, top) on October 7 at the Macau Cultural Centre. These guys are making their Asia debut and bring a minimalist programme of works by iconic composer Steve Reich. Fado singer Carminho (pictured, centre) plays Mount Fortress on October 15, a rising Portuguese star who comes from a family of musicians. For some groovy jazz vibes, don’t miss the mammoth six-hour Jazz x Jazz on October 22, also at Mount Fortress. This is a showcase by artists representing Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and the Mainland. Red Groove Project, Eugene Pao’s Band, Minyen Hsieh and Hong Chon Chau are expected to go down a storm.

To end the festival on a high, mark your calendar for Chaplin Once More! (pictured, left) on October 29 and 30 at the Park of Dr Carlos d’Assumpçao. Experience the comedy genius of Charlie Chaplin as silent films City Lights and The Gold Rush are accompanied by live music from the Macao Orchestra, led by world-famous American conductor Timothy Brock. No stranger to the genre, Brock has made a name for himself restoring silent film scores, as well as being one of the leading minds on orchestral performance practices of the 1920s and 30s.

There’s loads more happening throughout the festival, of course, from the big concerts to the intimate gigs. It’s time us Hongkongers appreciated the musical diversity of our neighbouring SAR by helping to welcome some of the best international maestros and acts over to our corner of the globe.

For a full list of the programmes, head to icm.gov.mo.

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